Coronavirus did what world leaders and politicians could not do - change us and fix earth. 
Compiled by Walter Sorochan Emeritus Professor San Diego State University

Posted April 28, 2020 May 3, Updated May 8, 2020.

This paper suggests rethinking about how the old world and WHO worked and instead, adopt a new earth disciplined approach to not just prevent future pandemics and natural disasters but a more humane approach to sharing food, technology, dealing with climate change, pollution and enhance the wellbeing of the entire world.

There were many alerts sounded about a coming future pandemic, but no one paid attention to any of these. No one was ready for coronavirus when it came in November 2019. Garrett: 2019  Preparedness was hampered by the lack of continued political will at all levels. Then when the virus spread, politicians in United States took over from virologists, confused the public while trying to explain what the virus was all about and screwed up containing it. This article briefly reviews past pandemics and suggests how the world can better prepare for future disasters and pandemics. 

An invisible organism that was asleep all of a sudden woke up and became active in 2019. Within two months, in 2020, it spread throughout the world and disrupted the lives of everyone, rich and poor. People were forced into lockdown, businesses closed, workers were laid off, supply chains of essential medical and food supplies were disrupted, many began dying and the best medical doctors had no answer to stop coronavirus. Covid-19 did what the world politicians and leaders could not do ... corona is forcing world leaders and countries to consider uniting and start adopting a new way of life. Unite and work together as a new world organization or get wiped out!

While countries and politicians all over the world are busy dealing with covid-19, no one is thinking about a plan to be ready for the next future pandemic. This article attempts to make some suggestions on doing just that.

Lets start with a brief review of historical pandemics, with the hope that we might learn something about prevention.

Below is a short history of how past lifestyle civilization created the worst pandemics in history:  LePan: Pandemic history 2020

Disease Year Host cause Deaths
COVID-19 2019- present unknown possibly bats, pangolins still evolving
MERS 2015-present bats, camels coronavirus 850,000
Ebola 2014-2016 wild animals ebolavirus 11,000
SARS 2002-2003 bats, civets, coronavirus 770
Swine flu 2009-2010 H1N1virus, pigs 200,000
HIV/AIDS 1981 -present virus chimpanzees 25-25 million
Hong Kong Flu 1968-1970 H3N2 virus 1 million
Asian Flu 1957-1958 H2N2 virus 1.1 million
Spanish flu 1918-1919 H1N1 virus 40-50 million
Russian Flu 1889-1890 H2N2 avian 1 million
Cholera Pandemics 1817-1923 v.chlerae bacteria 1 + million
Yellow fever Late 1800's virus mosquitoes 100,000 - 150,000
Small pox 1500  ++ variola major virus 56 million
The Black Death 1346-1353 Yersinia pestis bacteria, rats, fleas 200 million
Plague of Justinian 541-542 Yersinia pestis bacteria, rats, fleas 30-50 million
Antonine Plague 165-180 AD smallpox or measles 5 million

Many of the death tolls are best estimates based on research. Covid-19 death estimate is still evolving.

As you can surmise from viewing the table, there have been many pandemics in the past. Many of humanity’s existing diseases originated from animals: the Flu comes from pigs and birds, Tuberculosis originated in cattle, Ebola comes from chimpanzees or bats. Viruses and Bacteria spread from animals, poultry and birds living in close proximity to humans. Humans became susceptible when they lived in bad sanitary conditions and ignored personal hygiene. Living in close contact suddenly and rapidly spread viruses or bacteria globally, causing millions to die in a pandemic.

SARS2-Co-2 is not the first virus to cause an epidemic. Communicable diseases existed during humankind’s hunter-gatherer days, but the shift to agrarian life 10,000 years ago created communities that made epidemics more possible. Malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, influenza, smallpox and others first appeared during this period. The more civilized humans became, building cities and forging trade routes to connect with other cities and waging wars with them, the more likely pandemics became. An example of this is in the case of Justinian’s plague, the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea traced the origins of the plague (the Yersinia pestis bacteria) to China and northeast India, via land and sea trade routes to Egypt where it entered the Byzantine Empire through Mediterranean ports.  LePan: Pandemic history 2020

SARS2-Co-2 is a new virus, we know very little about it and we were unprepared to fight it as a biological war. Dealing with the disease, covid-19, is a war, but instead of fighting past wars with guns and bullets, we need to fight this one with public health biology. COVID-19, in a lot of ways, is a very effective disease that destabilizes health systems, global economic processes and life. The fact that it can transmit asymptomatically and produce fairly mild respiratory symptoms means that its capacity to spread is very high and rapidly. Public health measures like lockdown and social distancing put a real strain on health systems around the world.

The lesson: The world has been a mess for a long time. The world as we knew it before the coronavirus pandemic has been disorganized and lacked international leadership [it still does]. Previous pandemics gave us many warnings that were ignored by politicians. Making things worse, the general public in the past succumbed to addictive foods, poor hygiene and insanitation that lowered their immune system; making them susceptible to infections and diseases.

In the last 100 years of global prosperity, high technological advancements in medicine, health, communications, internet, computers, robots, intelligent technology and emerging nationalism, nations did little to have countries look after each other .... other than having competitive economic trade wars. There were many good intentions that ended up as failures to get countries to form organizations that would stabilize the world against wars, diseases, famine and pandemics.

Here are a few examples:

The League of Nations after WWI was organized to stop all wars and failed.

The moral imperative behind the Marshall Plan was to rebuild war torn Europe. Marshall Plan, formally labeled as the European Recovery Program, (April 1948–December 1951), was a U.S.-sponsored program designed to rehabilitate the economies of 17 western and southern European countries in order to create stable conditions in which democratic institutions could survive. Although this was viewed as strengthening the social legitimacy of its international institutions and the need to defend a certain 'way of life' against a different one, United States, as victor in the war, imposed its democratic values on war torn Europe. That murky definition was colored with the principles of freedom, democracy and human rights that exists to this day of covid-19.   

Although the European Union [EU] tried to unify Europe, it has also been a failed experiment. Another organization, The World Health Organization [WHO], has weak leadership, weak management procedures and has no real power other than to monitor the spread of a virus or bacteria. The world of the past 50 years has not been able to agree on stopping climate change. The slogan "Make America strong again" is a hollow echo that coronavirus has disrupted the USA economy and shut down the economies of the world. Americans defend their Individualism and self freedom, resist compromising and giving way to the “common good” and “public benefit." All countries still cling to the the old saying: "I want my cake and eat it too!"

The Covid-19 disease is changing the old world structure of doing business 'the old fashioned way' forever. Eradicating covid-19 in one country does not ensure that someone from another country will not re-infect a country that brought covid-19 under control. All countries must unite as one mother earth and work together to survive. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that " no country is an island unto itself!" No country can survive by itself, just as man cannot live by himself. Will there be a unifying big brother to look after the lesser countries?

Although we can assume that the virus SARS2-Co-2 will eventually be brought under control, the world will still be vulnerable to another virus attack and pandemics in the future. However, there is something that all countries can do. That is to form a real "new earth organization" that has all nations investing and abiding by a new set of rules. The two illustrations below symbolize two different worlds. The map on the left portrays the old world as individual countries 'doing their thing' that existed prior to the WHO coronavirus time. The illustration of a spinning earth [if the earth is not spinning with oceans and upper atmosphere winds moving, then click on view and then refresh] on the right symbolizes a living planet "gaia" in the future after all nations agree to a plan that attempts to solve the problems of the old WHO world.

world190 earth-spinning-2
Old flat WHO countries with many vested interestsNew Earth "Gaia" unified cooperation

The world map was chosen and labeled as flat, to symbolize that all countries function as self surving political and economic entities. Nations do not cooperate very well with each other and they do not solve world problems. The concept is "I me me" and not we. On the other hand, the evolving earth was chosen to symbolize the future world that has all the world unified and cooperating to prepare to prevent and stop not just future pandemics but attempt to solve all earth [natural disasters] and human problems [pandemics] as well. The earth revolves and displays oceans and air currents moving to indicate that earth is a living planet just like the organisms on it.

Why should we consider a new name for WHO?  Because WHO as an international body is now tainted with failure, lost it's credibility and has no international power to deal with pandemics. What covid-19 pandemic should have done is make the world leaders realize that they can no longer slush their way through another pandemic like this one and expect to survive. We can no longer continue to make decisions on the basis of political and economic vested interests at the expense of inequities of poverty, starvation, unemployment, lack of education and racial discrimination. The past 200 years awakened new thinking about human rights, individualism, freedom, democracy and vested interests. Many now cherish their freedoms and constitutional rights and defend their rights. But much of such individualistic thinking may need to be retooled! Attempts to stop covid-19 from spreading has required many to temporarily give up their personal rights of free movement and freedom so as not to spread the virus and contain it. Coronavirus has pushed the entire world into a new level of thinking, functioning and morality, such as "Is the individual more important than the rest of society or should this be reversed"? Do countries need to have their politicians give control over future earth organization to virologists, epidemiologists and medical doctors? There needs be a compromise in giving up some freedom temporarily so a viral pandemic can be contained as soon as possible and everyone can survive. This is the battle that the proposed new earth organization will have to consider and resolve.

The world organizations of the past have been only partially successful in preventing diseases and infections. There has been a continuous lack of strong international leadership. Leaders in the past may have been altruistic but money talked, corrupted and swayed public opinion. We need an organization that totally commits all nations to participate regardless of politics, nations need to have an economic commitment and all nations need to agree to some form of international law that has enforcement power. The proposed organization would have scientific mandatory priorities about human health versus economics and politics.

The title, New Earth, is arbitrary and should not be confused with “New World Order,” a term used to describe the uniting of the world’s superpowers to secure and maintain “global peace” and perceiving man's financial and political superiority over other people and living organisms.  New Earth implies a genuine concern for a living planet and all of its inhabitants that include all organisms .... living plants, animals, insects, birds and humans. How do we know that earth is a living planet? Well, it revolves on its axis and creates electromagnetic forces and gravity, has volcanoes that erupt, winds, temperature climate changes, deserts and drought, rain forests, rain, snow, ocean currents and upper atmospheric wind currents. Mother earth has the power to harness the sun and sustain photosynthesis that makes plant food that is available as food and makes life possible. Just as we need to protect people, we need to protect earth that is a mother to all.

New Earth was chosen to symbolize an entirely new approach to the inept Old WHO that monitors diseases and pandemics but has no power to enforce its recommendations or get nations to comply. New earth would have power to demand and enforce that all countries would obey policies and strategies to prevent epidemics and pandemics. New earth would have powers to force all countries to follow strict regulations as needed to contain pandemics. There would be a unified organization to have a working plan to stock up on food and medical supplies to be made available should a natural catastrophe like a drought, brush fire, flood or a new virus or bacteria become a threat to human survival. At this time this is a dream, much like the Marshall Plan was after world war II.

Professors Robert Muggah and and Yves Tiberghien, at University of British Columbia, summarize attempts for peace since WW II: "The old global liberal order served as the bedrock of peace and stability since 1945. It was purposefully designed by the US and its western allies to prevent armed conflict and the economic nationalism that gave rise to it. It was composed of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the G20 and a thicket of treaties and agreements. While experiencing its ups and downs, it set the rules for a stable positive-sum game. "  Muggah: New world order 2018

While virtually everyone agrees that a rules-based system is essential to managing security and trade, there is a power struggle underway over who writes and enforces them. A struggle for control of the world has been taking place economically between United States and fast rising China. But this struggle all of a sudden has temporarily been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic that threatens world civilization. All countries need to set aside politics as a way to solve world natural disasters, diseases and pandemics. It is politicians who have disregarded past warnings about pandemic warning that now must shoulder the blame for this pandemic and escalading economic recession.  

The entire world was unprepared for this biological pandemic threat, in spite of numerous warnings since 2000.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), observed that political division is fueling the coronavirus pandemic: “We [countries] need national unity and without national unity and global solidarity.... the worst is yet ahead of us."  Lacina: Need world unity 2020

Here is what world leaders need to consider:  Craine: preventing future epidemics 2015  Hutchins: 2020 IOM: Legal pandemic issues 2007

1. establish an international early-detection, rapid response system to an outbreak before it spreads.

2. prioritize public health ethics over those of individuality and self-interest in order to bring world disasters and pandemics under control.

3. surveillance, testing kits and tracing are necessary to quickly identify and respond to a pandemic influenza outbreaks.

4. each country complies with the Siracusa principles, a set of internationally agreed-upon legal principles that establish the conditions under which restrictions on civil liberties are justified (United Nations Economic and Social Council, 1985) during times of emergency and disaster. These principles hold that restrictions of liberty should be legal, proportionate, necessary, and accomplished by the least restrictive means that are reasonably available. Kloppers: Human rights 2020

5. what is the worst-case scenario? You want to err on the side of saving lives and not jobs or the economy.

6. establish an ongoing test lab that is constantly updated and funded.

7. shut down world wet animal food markets where millions of wild animals are killed and sold for consumption, often for luxury tastes in exotic species. This would also apply to caged animal and poultry farms.

8. evolve a free market ownership of vaccines, equipment, world distribution and allocation of viral medicine, vaccines and viral equipment.

9. establish a central data base for monitoring diseases and pandemic information.

10. resolve ecopolitics; establish policy, guidelines, discipline and enforcement to prevent climate change and destruction of earth.

11. establish a central research nutrition center to update current nutrition information. It is food that supercharges the immune system that prevents getting infection and disease.

12. establish a universal health care research center to update health care systems.

13. revamp corporate entities that harbor power, money and greed.

Constitutional and human rights lawyers have been obsessed in arguing and debating limitations on rights and freedoms during an outbreak of pandemics like ebola and coronavirus. But the long standing public health policy of society needs to be protected over the individual; protecting society supersedes individual rights. We need to keep in mind that SARS2-Co-2 as a virus does not adhere to human thinking. It marches to its own tune!

The current fight in United States over opening up the economy, while SARS2-Co-2 is continuing to spread, continues to overlook the already pre-established policies of protecting the health of the general population at the expense of the individual.

The quote below is an attempt to shed some moral light to justify health over politics and economics:

 "One of the key 1948 components of The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a body of 18 independent experts that monitored implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties [CESCR] General Comment No. 14: The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (GC 14) is the recognition that human rights are necessarily interdependent and that the social determinants of health are important to the promotion of health itself.

The use of restrictive measures during infectious disease outbreaks, including measures like quarantine, isolation, and travel prohibitions, restrict or limit basic human rights prescribed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as freedom of movement (Article 13) and the right to peaceful assembly (Article 20), for the sake of protecting and promoting the health of individuals and communities. Limitations on rights and freedoms are justified on the basis that restrictive measures are sometimes required to protect the public’s health during emergencies, restrictive measures, which limit certain human rights, are justified in the case of infectious disease outbreaks because their application will likely arrest—or help arrest—the spread of an infectious disease. This reasoning is further clarified in Article 25 of the Siracusa Principles, which states that rights and freedoms can be limited “…to allow a state to take measures dealing with a serious threat to the health of the population or individual members of the population. These measures must be specifically aimed at preventing disease or injury or providing care for the sick and injured."  Silva: Commentary human rights 2015

Limiting restrictions on time limits [length] of social distancing and lockdown, when the number of those infected are rising, should slow down the covid-19 from spreading. Easing such restrictions before the infection curve is flattened and lowering endangers the possibility of infection reoccurring.

Michael C. Lu, MD, MPH, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley, suggests three approaches to preventing future pandemics: 

  • create a global early warning system. Much like systems for tsunamis and earthquakes, an early warning system could allow for early detection of and rapid response to an outbreak before it spreads. It would gather intelligence through a combination of zoonotic reconnaissance, artificial intelligence (AI) surveillance and outbreak investigation.
  • strengthening public health. Early warnings would be useless if local, national and global public health systems cannot mount an effective response to an outbreak.
  • prevent future pandemics at their source by minimizing the risk of spillovers. Protecting natural habitats from relentless human encroachment and creating buffer zones around protected areas are important long-term goals. More immediately, we can stop wildlife trade, not only by regulating, monitoring or shutting down live animal markets like the ones in Wuhan, but also by enforcing international law to combat illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade.

World civilization has been evolving for thousands of years. As the world population grew and humans became more industrialized by harnessing natural resources, humans matured to a higher level over thousands of years. Today, the youthful adult world has matured and grown up into an unruly adult that has little respect for others, justice, law and international order. It is time for the mother earth take over, restore order and impose discipline on the greedy and misbehaving adults.

All this sounds good, but there is one big problem .... how do we get all the nations to agree to such a plan?  Politicians and other experts in the past 100 years have tried and failed. This author does not know all the ins and outs of what happened before.  But most world problems are man made and if man made, then man can solve such problems! But coronavirus has totally changed everything from 2020. The simplest example is social distancing and lockdown while struggling to contain the pandemic.

Epidemiologist and author Laurie Garrett has a novel suggestion in preventing future pandemics: "What is required is a new paradigm in the way people think about disease.  .... Preparedness demands understanding. To comprehend the interactions between Homo sapiens and the vast and diverse microbial world, perspectives must be forged that meld such disparate fields as medicine, environmentalism, public health, basic ecology, primate biology, human behavior, economic development, cultural anthropology, human rights law, entomology, parasitology, virology, bacteriology, evolutionary biology and epidemiology. "  Garrett: The Coming Plague 1994

 The author's guess is that the rich and powerful countries ruled over the week and poor nations. The rich did not want to give up their wealth while the poor did not have anything to bargain with. So politicians with vested interests from rich countries formed a variety of world organizations that they dominated. The poor countries were left out in the cold, so to speak.

But what if in today's new pandemic era the world approached forming a new earth organization that used a novel kind of device, tool, gizmo or motivation that had something that would give all people, even politicians, what they needed? The approach could be like giving what the people in every country needed in exchange for joining the new earth organization and abiding by the rules of survival?  How about focusing on the necessities of life? Not just jobs, but considerations like food; clean water; public health and medical-health care; shelters; expertise information on growing own food, clean air, sanitation, education and access to technology.  Not stimulus cheques, aid money as political promises that can be broken. There would be penalties for not complying with the new earth mandates that would be enforceable. It has to be an international agreement that provides long lasting security, health and survival for all.

Think of this new earth organization as a series of links in a long chain where each link in the chain represents a country. The chain is as strong as the weakest link. A weak link that endangers the entire chain cannot be left to exist as a weak link, for if it breaks, then the broken or weak link endangers all the other links.  Each link [country] must continue to be made strong and part of the long chain [earth].

We need a different approach to solving world problems from the past because this viral pandemic has exposed how weak and fragile governments, politicians and nations are on this planet. Countries can no longer do it alone. Like a wolf pack that bands together for survival, humans also need to band together for survival.

Yes, these ideas are abstract at this moment but these can be explored and fine tuned with common sense and the awareness that pandemics, natural disasters and climate change can no longer be left for someone else to solve.

 

 Urgent! Urgent! Urgent!  Do it Now:

Virologists are alerting us that this pandemic will not be brought under control in the world for at least two to five years. The reason is that most countries are not working together to stop this pandemic. Many rich countries are not enforcing strict lockdowns and there are not enough medical supplies, health care workers, test kits and reagents available to do essential testing; thereby allowing the SARS2-Co-2 to continue to silently spread. Politicians are ignoring the wisdom of virologists and medical doctors. Shelling out temporary survival stimulus money to businesses and factories that have laid off workers is not going to continue indefinitely. It is a temporary relief and when the money runs out every two weeks, people will be back to the same problem as before.

Meanwhile, this pandemic has disrupted the world economy and triggered an economic recession that is also causing food shortages, starvation, panic, mental and health care issues. Everyday that passes just makes the suffering and uncertainty of people that much worse. Millions of people will needlessly die from starvation. People need to be healthy to go back to work, so fixing the economy instead of stopping the pandemic is the wrong political decision!

There is no political discipline, no international priority policy and no international cooperation. The current old WHO and countries are failing to bring this pandemic under swift control.

Lets be realistic: Politicians and economists have been tampering with this pandemic for over six months now and most have little to show for it.

The importance of pointing out an international failure to bring coronavirus to a quick stop is that people and world leaders cannot wait and waste another two or five years and then thereafter begin organizing a new earth WHO organization. We may have another new pandemic to contend with before fixing this one. The world cannot wait for political leaders to take action. They don't have the will and skills do so. So we need to find epidemiologists, virologists and public health experts to organize countries into a cooperative working body.

 We need to begin forming a new earth organization now, starting yesterday! 

The suggestions herein for a unified new earth organization are not intended to be complete. But this author hopes that this article provides scientific reasoning to motivate readers and others to start thinking about the future and extend the thinking herein. How can countries do a better job of working, living together and preventing natural disasters, climate change, pollution of air and oceans, diseases and pandemics?

Your feedback is most appreciated: Install my email wsorochan@gmail.com in your email address contacts, then send me an email if you want to. Thank you.

References:

Breyer Melissa, "How to stop future pandemics in 3 easy steps," TreeHugger, March 18, 2020.  Breyer: Stopping pandemics 2020

Craine Titiana, "How to prevent future epidemics in 10 steps." Inverse, November 22, 2015.  Craine: preventing future epidemics 2015

Davenport John, "How an alliance of democracies can prevent future pandemics," Salon, April 26, 2020.  Davenport: Alliances prevent pandemics 2020

Hutchins Aaron, "How geopolitics is shaping the race for a coronavirus," MaCleans, April 27, 2020.  Hutchins: 2020

Garrett Laurie, The Coming Plague, Kindle Edition, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York,1994.  Garrett: The Coming Plague 1994

Garrett Laurie, "The World Knows an Apocalyptic Pandemic Is Coming But nobody is interested in doing anything about it," FP, September 20, 2019.  Garrett: 2019

Institute of Medicine (IOM), Ethical and Legal Considerations in Mitigating Pandemic Disease, Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.  IOM: Legal pandemic issues 2007

Kloppers Moira, "Siracusa Principles to Government," Sakeliga, April 27, 2020. Kloppers: Human rights 2020

Lacina Linda, "Without unity, 'the worst is yet ahead of us,: WHO coronavirus briefing, World Economic Forum, April 20, 2020.  Lacina: Need world unity 2020

LePan Nicholas, "Visualizing the History of Pandemics," Visual Capitalist, March 14, 2020  LePan: Pandemic history 2020

Lu Michael, "Future pandemics can be prevented, but that’ll rely on unprecedented global cooperation," Washington Post, April 17, 2020. Lu: Pandemics can be prevented 2020

Muggah Robert and Yves Tiberghien, "5 facts you need to understand the new global order," SecDev Group and Igarapé Institute, University of british Columbia, January 30, 2018.  Muggah: New world order 2018

Silva Diego S., and Maxwell J. Smith, "Commentary: Limiting Rights and Freedoms in the Context of Ebola and Other Public Health Emergencies: How the Principle of Reciprocity Can Enrich the Application of the Siracusa Principles," Health and Human Rights Journal, June 11, 2015.  Silva: Commentary human rights 2015

Wolfe Nathan, "COVID-19 Won't Be the Last Pandemic. Here's What We Can Do to Protect Ourselves," Time magazine, April 15, 2020.  Wolfe: Protecting against covid-19 2020